TAMPA — For the third time in as many years, Robinson finds itself in a state volleyball semifinal against the same tough opponent, Orlando Bishop Moore, which has ended the Knights' season each time.
But this time the Knights say it feels a little different.
A lot looser. A lot more confident.
"The previous years we said, 'Oh it's Bishop Moore,' and we were concerned," said junior outside hitter Kristin Werdine. "Now I think we feel like, 'Okay, bring 'em on.' We're ready for it this time."
The confidence stems partly from outstanding performances in the Class 6A playoffs where in the regional semifinals the Knights soundly beat Sebring 3-0 and then followed Tuesday night with a 25-16, 25-17, 25-13 drumming of visiting Tarpon Springs in the regional final.
"I think we're playing our best right now," said Robinson senior Christina Rolack, who on Tuesday collected about as many blocks as Tarpon Springs collected kills. "I was really feeling it tonight. We were all feeling it."
Rolack said the confidence steadily built after the first few points when Robinson (26-7) took a 10-5 lead and the momentum seemed to severely shift in the Knights' favor.
After that, Tarpon Springs (21-8) never seriously threatened, often appearing overwhelmed with the Knights' play at the net and in the back court. After the first set, in fact, Robinson had more blocks (nine) than the Spongers had kills (six), a trend that continued through the match.
"I think it helped that (Robinson) had played in (a region semifinal) the last few years and this was our first in several years," Tarpon Springs coach Patrick Sneed said. "But we have a lot of players coming back next year and we will learn from this experience and we will get better from it."
Robinson, meantime, will host a state semifinal Saturday at 2 p.m. against its state semifinal arch-nemesis Orlando Bishop Moore, which defeated the Knights 2-0 during a tournament in mid October.
"But that (regular-season loss) was a tournament match played early in the morning and I think we've improved a lot since then," Robinson coach Ashely Johnson said. "I really feel like we're ready for this. I feel good about it. I think we all feel good about it."